2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD review: 2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

Antuan Goodwin

Antuan Goodwin

Reviews Editor / Cars

Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and performance to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.

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5 min read

2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

The Good

The 2009 Nissan Rogue SL's 2.5-liter engine offers good low-end torque for low-speed city driving. Nissan's CVT is among the smoothest and best in the business. The premium Bose audio system offers good bass response without sacrificing overall quality.

The Bad

Cabin tech is virtually nonexistent. There are no digital-audio inputs for iPods or MP3 players. The Garmin Nuvi GPS option is overpriced and not at all integrated into the audio system. Seating is uncomfortable for long trips.

The Bottom Line

The Rogue just barely manages to meet our performance expectations for a crossover SUV in its price range, and falls short when it comes to cabin tech.

The word "rogue" is usually applied to people and things that break from convention and do the unexpected. Rogues catch you off guard with their speed and stealth. However, the vehicle that Nissan calls "rogue"--the 2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD, to be exact--is a decidedly average, small, crossover SUV. No surprises here.

The Rogue has enough power to feel competent, handles well enough to be described as adequate, and features styling that is utterly inoffensive--unlike its larger sibling, the Murano, which challenges you to love it or hate it with its in-your-face chrome nose. While we think the Rogue is a perfectly OK ride, nothing about it is outstanding or unexpected.

On the inside, the Rogue is equally middle-of-the-road, with a cabin composed of soft plastics that feel high quality when prodded, but certainly don't look the part. Meanwhile, the styling is sparse, but the not in the decidedly understated way that VWs and Audis manage to pull off. Instead, the Rogue's cabin is just dull.

Cabin ergonomics are good and all of the driving-related controls fall nicely into the hand. Unfortunately, the Rogue's seats are upholstered with padding that, while fine for short stints, just wasn't up to the job of cushioning our rumps for long journeys.

Cutting corners with cabin tech
Instead of Nissan's integrated navigation option, the Rogue gets a Garmin Nuvi 750 portable navigation device with a removable cradle hardwired for power. The 750 features text-to-speech reading of street and POI names and is preloaded with Nissan destinations, such as dealerships and service centers. However, the unit does not support traffic updates or any sort of voice command.

The Rogue's Garmin Nuvi navigation option seems tacked on and lacks integration with the rest of the vehicle's systems.

Unlike other Garmin integration options--such as the one we saw on the Suzuki SX4 Sport--Nissan's package isn't connected to the vehicle's audio system, so you will have to listen turn-by-turn directions through the Garmin's tiny, tinny speakers without the benefit of music attenuation.

Things don't get much better on the audio side of things. There are no digital audio input options (no iPod, no USB), so you will have to make due with the aux-input on the stereo's face or load MP3 CDs into the optional six-disc in-dash changer.

Fortunately, the audio is pumped through a seven-speaker Bose audio system that sounds pretty good, but not great. The system uses a CenterPoint fill speaker to improve front-stereo staging. A shallow subwoofer mounted in the spare tire well brings the total driver count to eight and adds the clean bass response that we've come to expect from Bose-branded car stereos.

Audio source information is displayed on a single line, monochromatic LCD display that, while quite visible in direct sunlight, can't display much information at the same time. For example, the user has to cycle between artist, album, song title, and the like using a display button.

The lack of a full color display on the Rogue's dash is a telltale sign that there's no rearview camera option available.

The Bose audio premium package also adds XM satellite radio, keyless entry and start, and Bluetooth hands-free calling. The Bluetooth system is completely voice controlled with relatively intuitive spoken commands. The system doesn't automatically pull your contacts when pairing a phone, necessitating individual contact addition and the assignment of voice tags.

A capable cruiser
The 2.5-liter QR-series, four-cylinder engine is the workhorse of Nissan's small car line, making appearances in the Sentra, the Altima, and here in the Rogue. In this incarnation, the engine makes 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque--unless you live in California, in which case emissions equipment chokes the power down to 167 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. In a compact car, that's a decent bit of power, but in a vehicle the size of the Rogue it's merely adequate.

While the Rogue SL's 170-horsepower engine doesn't feel weak, it definitely won't blow your socks off with its acceleration.

The Rogue's tall SUV stance, mushy suspension, and all-season tires respond to corners with a good deal of understeer and body roll. However, if you keep the CUV well within its small performance envelope, the Rogue is a pretty good cruiser. The soft suspension soaks up all but the harshest of bumps, creating a smooth ride.

Further contributing to the Rogue's smoothness is Nissan's Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Under light loads, such as low-speed city driving or constant-speed freeway cruising, the Rogue's CVT is butter smooth, eliminating the jerking of shifting gears by constantly changing its gear ratios. Unlike some CVTs, the Rogue's transmission does so without constantly hunting around for the right virtual gear.

The CVT's Achilles' Heel is hard acceleration; floor the go-pedal from any speed and you'll be met with a second or so of hesitation while the transmission slides leisurely down to the right gear ratio.

While the Rogue's CVT is the only available transmission, customers are given the choice between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. We wouldn't dream of taking this soft-roader too far off of the beaten path, so unless you live in an area that gets a good deal of snow or rain, stick with the more efficient front-wheel drive option.

Our Rogue SL averaged 22.9 mpg over our testing cycle, which is on the low end of the EPA-estimated 22 city and 27 highway mpg.

In sum
Although the Nissan Rogue's name implies that we should be surprised by it in some way, the reality is that it just barely manages to meet our expectations for a small SUV in its price range.

The Rogue SL starts at $21,810. Add $1,930 for the Premium package, which brings the six-disc, seven-speaker Bose audio, Bluetooth, and keyless entry. The Garmin Nuvi navigation option costs $540 from Nissan. Tack on an extra $110 for floor mats and a $780 destination charge to reach an as-tested price of $25,170.

The low level of cabin tech hurt the Rogue's otherwise average score.

The Rogue earns a low cabin comfort score because of its lack of digital-audio inputs, limited cabin tech, and overpriced and under-integrated Garmin Nuvi navigation option, which can be purchased separately for about half of what Nissan charges.

Performance is pretty good, as long as you don't push the Rogue too hard, and the CUV gains an extra point for its supersmooth CVT.

We're split on our feelings about the Rogue's design. On one hand, the cabin materials feel high quality and the controls fall nicely into place. On the other, we wouldn't want to spend a long period of time in such a dull cabin on such uncomfortable seats.

Performance-oriented drivers should look to the 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan S, which can drive circles around the Rogue. Despite lacking Bluetooth hands-free, the Honda CR-V features a higher-quality cabin and a better tech package. However, both of these vehicles are significantly more expensive than a similarly equipped Rogue and are less fuel efficient.

Spec box

Model2009 Nissan Rogue
Power train2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder, CVT
EPA fuel economy22 mpg city/27 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy22.9 mpg
NavigationOptional Garmin Nuvi 750 portable navigation system
Bluetooth phone supportOptional
Disc playerSix-disc CD changer with MP3 playback
MP3 player supportAuxiliary analog input
Other digital audioXM satellite radio
Audio systemSeven-speaker Bose premium audio with subwoofer
Driver aidsN/A
Base price$21,810
Price as tested $25,170

2009 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

Score Breakdown

Cabin tech 4Performance tech 6Design 6


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